This post will contain spoilers for
There are few anime that have nestled their way into my heart as quickly as Gurren Lagann.
To this day, I’m not entirely certain what specifically won me over to this show so quickly. Was it the characters? The interesting world? The premise? The kicking theme song? The almost self-aware, ridiculously over-the-top stakes that continue to push further and further out of the realm of possibility while cackling madly? Maybe it’s a combination of all these things and more.
All I know is that immediately after watching Gurren Lagann, I felt like I’d seen it during my childhood, like it was an old friend: it made me feel nostalgic after viewing it for the first time.
|Aniplex of America 2007|
Gurren Lagann displays everything I love about anime, everything that sets it apart from so many Western shows. It’s quirky, over-the-top. Its animation is stylized; its character reactions are absurdly dramatic and expressive, taking full advantage of what 2D animation has to offer. It gets you pumped up… and inspires you in real life.
My favorite aspect of Gurren Lagann is by far its characters. The designs are excellent: striking, unique, and memorable. Who hasn’t seen an image of bikini-clad sniper Yoko or sunglasses-donning, bare-shirted Kamina?
But the characters go beyond their designs. They’re well-written, lovable, and unforgettable.
These characters grow and change. They exhibit realistic emotions in a setting that continually goes over-the-top. Maybe that’s part of what makes the premise and plot stay firm: the grounded characters.
It seems funny calling the colorful cast of Gurren Lagann grounded, but they are—at least emotionally. Even one of the arguably most flamboyant characters, Kamina (despite his outbursts of bravado and unrestrained confidence) has moments that ground him. He genuinely cares for Simon, who he treats as a little brother and mentee. He earnestly throws his whole self into whatever project he needs to in order to lead the team forward, but he’s not selfish about it; Kamina sacrifices himself for the team. He may seem like a goofball, but he takes his relationship with Yoko quite seriously
So losing him leaves a hole in everyone’s hearts.
Much like Kamina, Gurren Lagann—despite its boisterous, loud, and brazen nature—is a show that matters. Not just to the anime community, but to the people who watch it. It proclaims important themes and life lessons that we take for granted.
Like the importance of not letting yourself stay in a rut but of pushing forward.
Or the value all people and life, no matter how different they may seem from us.
Or to cherish the good things in life, because we’re all mortal and someday, we may lose them.
And when we do experience those losses, to not wallow in misery and pain, but to accept those feelings, work through them, and move forward.
It teaches us that there is inner strength in even the most feeble, benign, docile-looking person, and to embrace that strength because other people are relying on it.
It teaches us the value of friends and how two or more people can accomplish what might have seemed impossible.
And speaking of the impossible, Gurren Lagann laughs at the notion, because its main message is to never stop trying just because the odds are stacked against you… or because no one else has ever done it before.
Now, can the characters do everything and anything? No. There are still stakes. There are still failures. But that makes the successes and sacrifices all the more valuable.
Because Gurren Lagann teaches us that life can and will change; that it must; and that we can overcome the pain that comes with that change and become better, stronger, and happier for it.
Gurren Lagann has romance, comedy, tension, and drama. It has strained family relationships. It has painful loss and how to overcome it.
And, most importantly, it has heart.
A Show that Sticks With You
When I first finished watching Gurren Lagann, I felt that familiar bittersweet feeling I get every time I complete a story I have adored. But while that was certainly unexpected, what truly surprised me is how the show has stuck with me long after that initial bittersweet delight. While I can point to many shows I’ve watched and say, “Wow, that was a good show,” oftentimes I need to rewatch them to remember just exactly how much I enjoyed them and why. This is not the case with Gurren Lagann. Every time Gurren Lagann has come to mind, I remember exactly how much I’d cherished it. Every time, it fills me with a sense of warm memories: “Ah, Gurren Lagann. That was a great show.” Despite its shortcomings and quirks, it lodged itself in my heart as one of my forever favorites.
I never need to remind myself how good Gurren Lagann was. I remember. And that alone sets it apart as one of my favorite anime of all time.
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Gurren Lagann and all related terms are the property of Aniplex of America. And I am not affiliated with them.